Side A – Yasgrid
Dinner was, it turned out, exactly what Yasgrid needed. The trail rations they’d carried were nutritious. Technically, she and Kayelle could have survived in perfect health without worrying about finding other sources of sustenance. Partaking in real food though offered benefits the trail rations never could have.
“So what were the Troubles like?” Salana, asked. She’d opted to join them for dinner along with Marianne while their other friends had begged off, citing a need to dine with their families.
Yasgrid expected they wanted to be the first to share the news of Endings Bearers being in town, but she didn’t begrudge them that. It was easier finding seating for four than it would have been for seven and the conversation flowed more naturally.
“Let them get their orders squared away first,” Marianne said. “They’ve got to be starving if they made it here on foot since the New Year.”
“We’re not that far from Corowan,” Salana said.
Yasgrid blinked, but without needing to ask, Nia passed along the understanding she needed. “Corowan” was the name of the Nia’s home city. It was a week’s travel away from Bluefalls normally, but Yasgrid and Kayelle had set a blistering pace as they flew through the forest seeking to avoid the Troubles which pursued them. They’d also raced along a winding and inefficient course though, so in the end their extra speed had balanced out against the longer distance they’d run.
“It’s ok,” Kayelle said. “We can talk while we work out our order.”
The dining room at the Fall’s Terrace wasn’t packed but there were enough people in it that the general noise level gave their conversation a reasonable level of privacy.
“Tell us what it was like then!” Marianne said, excitement outweighing concern, but not by much.
“We’ve encountered three so far,” Yasgrid said between bites of the fresh table bread their server had left for them when they were seated.
“That’s a lot for just one week isn’t it?” Salana asked. “Some Bearers don’t even see that in their whole year.”
“It differs,” Kayelle said. “Depending on the Bearer and their focus, Troubles can either seek them out or avoid them. In our case, they chose to seek us out.”
“Isn’t that kind of foolish of them?” Marianne asked. “I mean you have the one thing that can permanently kill them.”
“Well they can’t be too smart can they,” Salana said. “They’re just Troubles.”
“They get smarter with age,” Yasgrid said. “And they’re more dangerous in numbers.”
“The ones we fought were smart enough to team up,” Kayelle said. “And smart enough to get the drop on us. If it wasn’t for someone’s quick thinking,” she nodded to Yasgrid, indicating who deserved the credit in that case, “Endings would be lost and we’d both be dead.”
“What did you do?” Marianne asked.
“Mostly just guessed right,” Yasgrid said. She could see Kayelle’s plan, but she didn’t like the notion of trying to win Marianne’s attention, or worse, affection, by bragging about what they’d done. It seemed too superficial.
“Guessing right in this case entailed stabbing me through the chest,” Kayelle said.”Here let give you the whole story.”
Side B – Nia
The upside to being tucked in a corner with the other new recruits was that Nia at least had people she’d met before to talk to.
“Do they do this every night or is this just special for us?” Jarben asked. He’d been one of the drummers who’d been seated next to Nia at the Calling. She remembered him playing through the storm of miscast magic until he’d been knocked out. That had probably saved his life since those who pushed on past where their skill ended had been rent to dust in some cases.
“Doesn’t seem like they’re particularly focused on us,” Margrada said. Nia had been dropped onto the bench beside Margrada by Yasgrid’s mother before the latter was swept away by the crowd. Nia wasn’t certain it was the best place for her to sit since Margrada was studiously ignoring her, but that was a step up from the open hostility Margrada had shown her at the Calling.
“It’s supposed to be a bonding experience, but I think that’s more a reference to how sticky these seats are with all the stuff they spill on them,” Belhelen said. She wasn’t a new recruit but she was still the youngest of the established Shatter Band who were present. She was also a friend of Yasgrid’s which made it both good and bad that she was sitting on the opposite end of the bench from Nia.
“Was it like this when they brought you on board?” Nia asked, shouting to be heard over the tumult.
“Pretty much,” Belhelen said with a shrug.
“Are we supposed to get up and mingle on our own or something?” Jarben asked.
“There’s no rule against it,” Belhelen said. “Of course, I’m not sure there are rules against much of anything in here.”
“I thought we were supposed to get to know everyone tonight?” Jarben said.
“I think we are getting to know them,” Margrada said, gesturing to the brawl that was taking place in front of them.
A lot of the rough housing seemed to be good natured but the fight on the other side of the table the four were seated behind had reached the critical level of drunkenness where friendly jeers were no longer distinguishable from serious insults.
Nia winced as she heard someone break a bottle. The Darkwood Elf in her, wanted to ghost out into the night. No. Not the elf. The Darkwood Elves weren’t this rowdy normally but Nia suspected she was watching outlier behavior even for Stonelings. The part of her that wanted to flee from it didn’t come from her cultural heritage. It came from one person in specific.
Naosha M’Kellin wouldn’t have fled from the scene though. Nia was certain of that. Her mother wouldn’t have tolerated the fighting, and probably would have quieted everything down with a few well placed words, but she wasn’t one to run. She would sweep the world away before she let it overwhelm her.
Nia wondered for the first time if Naosha knew how often she’d caught her youngest daughter in those sweeping changes she made.